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March Madness Selection Sunday winners and losers: Who benefited as the Big East missed out?

[Printable men's bracket | Women's]

Selection Sunday is always full of surprises. And the 2024 edition did not disappoint.

As men's teams like NC State, Oregon and UAB won their conference tournaments to steal NCAA tournament bids, bubble teams had to worry a lot more than usual heading into Sunday. The bubble shrank by four bids over the course of conference tournament week as teams who otherwise wouldn't have made the field.

On the women's side, Caitlin Clark and Iowa have an unexpectedly difficult draw.

Here are our winners and losers from this season's men's and women's bracket unveilings.

WINNERS

The Mountain West

Only two conferences got more teams in the NCAA men's tournament than the Mountain West. Though the conference can quibble with the seeding placement of some of its teams, Selection Sunday was an overall victory for the MWC as other conferences got fewer teams in the tournament than they anticipated because of all the bubble thieves.

New Mexico clinched its spot by winning the Mountain West title on Saturday and drew a No. 11 seed. Boise State, Colorado State and Nevada got in as No. 10 seeds, while San Diego State is the conference’s highest seed at No. 5. Utah State is a No. 8 seed.

Boise State was one of the last four teams in and has to play in Dayton early in the week, while the Rams and Wolf Pack can argue they’re under-seeded. But being in the tournament is certainly better than missing out entirely.

Gonzaga

The Zags had a great day all around.

Not long ago, the Gonzaga men weren't even a lock to make the NCAA tournament. An 11-5 start with no Quad 1 wins had the perennially contending Bulldogs sitting firmly on the early bubble in January.

Thanks to a 14-2 finish with wins over Kentucky and Saint Mary's, Gonzaga safely played its way in as an at-large team, widely projected as a No. 7 seed after losing the WCC tournament final to the Gaels.

But the committee looked beyond Gonzaga's slow start and lack of star power and appeared to lean on analytics in seeding the Bulldogs. They entered Selection Sunday ranked 15th in KenPom ratings and 17th in Net rankings, numbers that project them in the 4-5 seed range.

Now Gonzaga's a No. 5 seed in a bracket with a hobbled No. 4 seed Kansas team and a No. 1 seed in Purdue with plenty of questions. Not a bad draw.

Gonzaga fans have reason to cheer the No. 5 seed for their Bulldogs. (David Becker/Getty Images)
Gonzaga fans have reason to cheer the No. 5 seed for their Bulldogs. (David Becker/Getty Images) (David Becker via Getty Images)

On the women's side, the selection committee didn’t penalize Gonzaga too much for its loss to Portland in the West Coast Conference title game on Tuesday. The Zags lost 67-66 after going 16-0 in the conference during the regular season. The loss was just Gonzaga’s third of the season.

With a schedule that featured a good win over Stanford and not much else, it was plausible that Gonzaga could have been dropped to a No. 5 seed on Sunday. The committee didn’t do that. Gonzaga drew a No. 4 seed and will get to host in the first and second rounds at the McCarthey Athletic Center.

The Bulldogs’ No. 4 seed also means that Spokane is basketball hub next weekend. With the city also playing host to the men’s tournament at Spokane Arena, the city will host 12 games over five days.

Columbia

The Ivy League is a two-bid league in the women's tourney. Columbia earned a No. 12 seed in the Portland 3 region as an at-large team, joining conference tournament champion Princeton in the NCAA tournament. The bid is the first ever for the Lions.

The decision was one of the toughest facing the selection committee. Princeton defeated Columbia in the Ivy League tournament final as the No. 1 seed to secure the conference's automatic bid. The Tigers had a strong enough resume to earn an at-large bid and enter tournament play as the No. 9 seed in the Albany 2 region.

Columbia, obviously, also had an at-large case, just not as strong. Ultimately, the committee determined that the Lions and Ivy League Player of the Year Abbey Hsu belonged. But they'll have to earn their way into the main bracket. Columbia tips off its NCAA tournament against fellow No. 12 seed Vanderbilt in the First Four.

Texas

The Longhorns men's team didn’t have a great season. Texas went 9-9 in the Big 12 and finished eighth in the 14-team conference. The Longhorns never won three straight games during conference play and needed to win three of their last four regular-season games to get to .500 in the conference.

Texas seemed to be penciled in as either a No. 8 or No. 9 seed in the tournament ahead of Selection Sunday. Yet the Longhorns found themselves as a No. 7 seed in the Midwest region and meet a team in either Virginia or Colorado State that had to play just two days before. If Texas wins that game, the Longhorns will likely face Tennessee and old coach Rick Barnes. That will be a marquee second-round game if it happens.

Unexpected conference champions

Sunday was the worst Selection Sunday for men's bubble teams in recent memory. Otherwise worthy tournament teams including St. John's, Oklahoma and Indiana State were left out of the tournament thanks to a spate of bid-stealing upsets in conference tournaments.

Oregon defeated Colorado on Saturday to win the Pac-12 championship. NC State beat North Carolina to win the ACC title. And UAB won the AAC championship after an exit from favorite FAU early in the tournament. None of those championships were expected, and none of those teams would have made the tournament without securing their respective conference titles.

But now the Ducks, Wolfpack and Blazers are automatic bid winners in multi-bid leagues, meaning several prospective at-large bubble teams are out of luck. But that's of no concern for the teams and fan bases that get to keep dancing.

North Carolina

The Tar Heels appeared to have a bead on the men's tournament's final No. 1 seed when Tennessee bowed out of the SEC tournament in the quarterfinals. UNC had defeated Tennessee in the regular season and was projected just behind the Volunteers in the race for the top seed. A trip to the ACC title game appeared to be enough to secure it

But Saturday changed that dynamic. Iowa State wrecked Houston in the Big 12 championship, and North Carolina lost the ACC title game to 10th-seeded NC State. Iowa State ranked ahead of North Carolina in KenPom and NET rankings, raising whispers that Iowa State might actually come from behind to snag that last No. 1 seed. But Iowa State's weak non-conference schedule appeared to do it in, and the Tar Heels secured the No. 1 seed in the West.

UConn

Prepare for the Huskies to be a popular pick to advance to the Final Four in both the men’s and women’s NCAA tournaments.

As the men drew the No. 1 overall seed, the women snagged the No. 3 seed in a Portland regional. The Huskies will play Jackson State to open the tournament and then likely face Syracuse unless Auburn or Arizona pulls an upset.

No. 2 Ohio State could be waiting in the Sweet 16, but UConn is one of the hottest teams in the country. The Huskies have won nine straight games since losing to South Carolina and have won all nine of those games by at least 20 points.

LOSERS

Iowa

The Hawkeyes took the nation by storm behind the biggest individual season in women's basketball history with Caitlin Clark's history-making performance that set multiple scoring records.

Their reward? A brutal bracket draw that features a reigning champion LSU team that beat Iowa in last year's national championship game.

The Hawkeyes earned the No. 1 seed in an Albany 2 region that also features No. 2 seed UCLA, No. 4 seed Kansas State, No. 7 seed Creighton and No. 9 seed Princeton alongside LSU, any of whom would provide the Hawkeyes with a difficult matchup. Along with LSU, UCLA is a legitimate national championship contender. Iowa would likely have to get past one of them in the regional final just to make it to Cleveland.

Kansas State, meanwhile, handed Iowa one of its four losses this season. The Wildcats could await in the Sweet 16.

An Iowa-LSU rematch featuring Caitlin Clark and LSU could take place in the Elite Eight. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
An Iowa-LSU rematch featuring Caitlin Clark and LSU could take place in the Elite Eight. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) (Maddie Meyer via Getty Images)

A rematch against LSU featuring Clark and reigning NCAA tournament MOP Angel Reese would be must-see TV. Iowa would just likely prefer that the rematch took place in the Final Four. If Clark adds a national championship to cap her magical season, she will have earned it.

The Big East

It was a rough Selection Sunday for a conference that was considered one of the best in men's college basketball. The Big East’s blue bloods didn’t have to sweat at all; UConn, Marquette and Creighton each earned top-three seeds. But the conference’s bubble teams had a far worse day.

Seton Hall, Providence and St. John’s all entered Sunday with hopes of making the NCAA tournament. All three watched the selection show and didn’t see their names in the field of 68.

The Big East ended up with just its top three teams in the tournament as everyone else missed out even though Seton Hall finished just one game back of Marquette and Creighton in the conference standings and St. John’s went 11-9 in conference play. Expect a lot of public frustration from those in and around the conference over the next few days.

Rick Pitino's St. John's team was one of multiple Big East disappointments on Sunday. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Rick Pitino's St. John's team was one of multiple Big East disappointments on Sunday. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) (Jim McIsaac via Getty Images)

Fans in the state of Alabama

Alabama had four men's schools make the NCAA tournament as Alabama and Auburn easily made the field as No. 4 seeds, Samford won the Southern Conference and UAB knocked off Temple for the AAC tournament title on Sunday. But if any fans from three of those schools were thinking about going to see their teams play in the tournament, they’re in for a long trip.

Three Alabama schools found themselves heading to Spokane, Washington, for the first weekend of the tournament. Both Alabama and Auburn were sent to the Pacific Northwest because they were some of the lowest teams in the regional preference picking order and No. 12 seed UAB is heading to Spokane to play San Diego State. If the Blazers upset the Aztecs and Auburn beats Yale, we could have an all-Alabama matchup in Washington during the second round.

The Cyclones celebrated a Big 12 championship, but a No. 1 seed wasn't in the cards. (Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
The Cyclones celebrated a Big 12 championship, but a No. 1 seed wasn't in the cards. (Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) (Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Iowa State

The Iowa State men made the biggest statement of conference tournament week with a 69-41 blowout of Houston in the Big 12 men's championship game.

The Cyclones entered the weekend as a projected No. 2 seed and then took down a No. 1 seed in emphatic fashion to win the tournament title of the nation's best conference. When North Carolina lost the ACC title game to an NC State team seeded 10th in the ACC, there was chatter that the Cyclones would overtake the Tar Heels as the NCAA tournament's final No. 1 seed.

No such luck. Iowa State was announced on Sunday as a No. 2 seed and landed in arguably the worst spot of all the 2 seeds. To get through to the Final Four, the Cyclones face a difficult path that potentially includes a No. 3 seeded Illinois team that just put on a show en route to a Big Ten tournament championship. A matchup with UConn, the reigning national champion and No. 1 overall seed, would potentially await in the regional final.

Trev Alberts

Things got really, really awkward for the former Nebraska athletic director on Sunday.

Alberts, a former Nebraska linebacker, was announced as Texas A&M’s athletic director earlier in the week. As he moved from the Big Ten to the SEC, he probably figured that his alma mater wouldn’t be playing his new employer anytime soon. But as we found out in the span of hours on Sunday night, two of the first sporting events in Alberts’ tenure will be massive matchups against his old school.

Nebraska drew Texas A&M in the men’s NCAA tournament. The No. 8 Cornhuskers take on the No. 9 Aggies on Friday evening. Just a little bit after finding out that the men’s teams are playing each other, Nebraska and Texas A&M were pitted against each other in the women’s tournament. And Nebraska is the higher seed in this one too. The Huskers are a No. 6 seed against the No. 11 Aggies. We’re guessing Alberts is going to feel a bit conflicted during each of those games.

Indiana State

The bubble pinch seemed destined to hurt Indiana State on Sunday and sure enough, the nation will be deprived of seeing the Sycamores and Robbie Avila in the NCAA tournament.

Indiana State lost to Drake in the Missouri Valley Conference title game a week ago and failed to secure the conference’s automatic berth. A normal-ish conference tournament week could have gotten the Sycamores into the tournament. With an NET ranking of No. 29 — the highest of any team that missed out on the tournament — the Sycamores had an analytics ranking to make up for their lack of marquee wins.

But as the bubble shrank and shrank over the weekend, it felt like a foregone conclusion that Indiana State would be on the outside looking in. And Selection Sunday simply confirmed it.